Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
SAN JOSE — Jurors who will decide the fate of indicted Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Danser could hear from more than 100 witnesses, including countless judges, attorneys and court employees, during an eight-week trial. And if prosecutors get their way, the jury won’t be allowed to hear that the judge accused of ticket-fixing may have been exercising legitimate judicial discretion or that the indictment could be a bald effort by the district attorney to oust a political enemy. Nor would jurors know anything of a parallel action brought against Danser by the Commission on Judicial Performance. Danser’s trial on charges of felony conspiracy and misdemeanor obstruction of justice begins Monday. In addition to the traffic ticket allegations, he’s accused of giving light sentences in two DUI cases and pressuring cops to dismiss tickets issued against his own automobiles. Danser is currently on paid leave from the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench. If convicted of either felony conspiracy or misdemeanor obstruction of justice — both crimes of moral turpitude — he would lose his gavel. A felony conviction could also mean up to three years in prison. From the outset, defense attorney Kenneth Robinson has said his client was acting in the interest of justice when he dismissed about 20 traffic tickets issued to professional athletes and others. Defense lawyers expect Robinson to make the most of Danser’s apparent lack of any financial motive. “The motive is weak,” said Palo Alto defense attorney Daniel Barton. “It didn’t appear to be for personal financial gain, and judges have broad discretion.” David Pandori, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, filed a series of pretrial motions this week aimed at shutting down the defense arguments. Robinson has yet to file his motions in limine. He declined to discuss his plans for the trial in any detail. “We’ll show up,” he said earlier this week. “We’ll be ready, and we’ll prevail.” Pandori, meanwhile, acknowledged that his witness list includes almost 100 names, far more than the 40 who testified before a grand jury in September. Pandori won’t release the list, but several of Danser’s court colleagues may find themselves on the witness stand. The entire bench recused itself, and retired Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge William Kelsay has been sitting by assignment in a San Jose courtroom. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judges Ray Cunningham and Douglas Southard, as well as Commissioner Gregory Saldivar, testified in front of the grand jury and are expected to take the stand at trial. In papers filed with the court Tuesday, Pandori sought to add a dozen more witnesses, including Judges Jamie Jacobs-May and Kenneth Shapero and Commissioner Steven Yep. Pandori is expected to call the 20 people, including a handful of Sharks players and the team’s CEO, Gregory Jamison, whose tickets were dismissed. Pandori said this week he also plans to “put on the police officers who issued the tickets.” Santa Clara University criminal law professor Edward Steinman said the large number of witnesses could help Pandori convey the magnitude of Danser’s offenses and, at the same time, stave off the argument that it’s a politically motivated prosecution. But there’s a risk of overkill, Steinman said. “The fact they are putting a sitting judge on trial, there is going to be a very strong presumption of guilt,” Steinman said. “Whether or not it makes sense to have a deluge of witnesses saying the same thing, I don’t know.” QUESTION OF MOTIVE The prosecution has subpoenaed co-conspirator former Los Gatos Police Det. Randall Bishop, but prosecutors said they have not decided whether they will call him to testify. Bishop pleaded no contest to felony conspiracy and five counts of misdemeanor obstruction of justice two weeks ago, after prosecutors refused to offer him any sort of plea deal. He will be sentenced after trial. Steinman theorizes the prosecution will call Bishop, if only to ensure the jury is aware of his no contest plea. “Having no deal and having him admit what he had to plea to would be helpful relevant evidence,” Steinman said. Others say Bishop is probably eager to testify so he can get a break at sentencing. “It’s hard to believe he went and pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge with the goal of helping Judge Danser,” said Barton. “When someone is a successful witness for the prosecution, especially when the defendant is a trophy defendant like Danser, the prosecutor tends to be very lenient with sentencing.” But in the event Bishop doesn’t take the stand and jurors don’t learn of his plea, Pandori wants to prevent Robinson from laying the blame at his feet. Pandori filed a pretrial motion asking the defense be barred from “stating, arguing or insinuating why defendant Bishop isn’t being prosecuted in this trial.” But defense attorneys expect Robinson to emphasize Danser’s apparent lack of financial motivation and the notion that his actions amount to nothing more than ill-considered favors. Pandori doesn’t have to provide a motive to prove conspiracy. In his arguments to the grand jury, Pandori floated the theory that Danser fixed tickets to seem important and to hobnob with local celebrities. Pandori has filed a motion asking Judge Kelsay to clarify that it’s “unnecessary to prove receipt of something of value to prove conspiracy.” Defense attorneys also think Robinson will turn the motive issue around, arguing that District Attorney George Kennedy is selectively prosecuting a judge who at times has been critical of his office. Danser is generally viewed as an affable guy. But he can also rub people the wrong way. Homicide prosecutor Lane Liroff could be one of those people. The Commission on Judicial Performance has accused Danser of joking with DA investigators guarding Liroff that “if someone shot Lane they might be doing the community a favor.” Jaime Leanos, a San Jose defense attorney, said he likes Danser. But, he said, “He might have been a little abrasive to prosecutors and defense lawyers at times. Whether it affected the DA’s office is questionable.” PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKES All together, Pandori has filed a dozen in limine motions designed to thwart potential defense strategies. One asks the judge to prevent the defense from arguing that Danser has “unfettered discretion to dismiss a criminal charge.” Another asks that Danser be prevented from arguing that his actions were business as usual in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Pandori wants to exclude any evidence that other judges have also failed to enter their reasons in dismissal orders. “In this case the relevance of the absence of reasons in the minute orders for the dismissals by Judge Danser is to show consciousness of guilt of perverting and obstructing justice,” Pandori wrote. “It would have been ludicrous for truthful reasons to have been entered by Judge Danser in these traffic citation dismissals such as, �Dismissed in furtherance of justice because Randy Bishop asked me to take a look at it.’” Pandori is also asking that jurors not be told a conviction could knock Danser off the bench or that the matter should be handled by the Commission on Judicial Performance rather than a criminal indictment. Pandori also wants to prevent Robinson from impugning the prosecution’s motives with comments such as “The district attorney doesn’t like the way my client (conducts his courtroom, treats district attorneys, sentences defendants), so he wants him out.” Earlier this week, Pandori asked Judge Kelsay to allow in “additional evidence of prior acts” including four uncharged ticket dismissals, two more DUI cases, a disturbing the peace case and a protective order violation, where prosecutors allege Danser acted in abuse of authority. In the disturbing the peace and protective order cases, Pandori wrote, Danser set bail for the misdemeanor offenses at 10 times the normal rate after his friend Bishop hand-delivered the case to his courtroom. Judge Susan Bernardini lowered the disturbing-the-peace bail from $150,000 to $15,000 and Judge Sharon Chatman lowered the protective order bail from $250,000 to $25,000. Bernardini and Chatman are thus among the judges who could be called to the witness stand. “The people intend to prove in the current case that Judge Danser and Officer Bishop had a close working relationship and that Danser was willing to do anything Bishop requested, whether that was to provide unwarranted help to Bishop’s friends or impose unwarranted requirements on people on the wrong side of Det. Bishop,” Pandori wrote.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.